Last week an editorial popped up in the New York Times regarding recent news for French wine growers and the use of pesticides. Pesticide use on vines is required in many regions of France, and there are wine growers currently being sentenced to jail time plus fines for refusing to use it. This month the French Assembly plans to meet and debate a recently submitted sustainable agriculture bill regarding pesticide use. Read more here:
“Pesticides in French Wine
Organic wine producers in the Burgundy region of France are facing prosecution for refusing to use pesticides. This move is perplexing given the Ministry of Agriculture’s support for the organic wine industry and growing public alarm over pesticides in French wine.
The share of organically produced French wines rose from 2.6 percent in 2007 to 8.2 percent by the end of 2012. Despite this progress, France is still the third-highest user of pesticides in the world after the United States and Japan, and the highest user in Europe, applying 110,000 metric tons of pesticides per year.
A study in February that found pesticide residues in 90 percent of the French wines tested created an uproar. Pesticide residues were even found in organic wines, indicating contamination from neighboring vineyards or other sources. French vines are susceptible to a contagious bacterial disease, flavescence dorée, transmitted by a leafhopper. Treatment with pesticides is required by French law in several winegrowing regions, including Burgundy.
One organic producer in Burgundy has now been charged with breaking the law for refusing to use Pyrevert, a pyrethrin pesticide. He says there is no evidence that his vines are infected, and argues that Pyrevert, a neurotoxin, is nonspecific to leafhoppers and kills beneficial insects as well. He faces six months of prison time and a fine of 30,000 euros, or about $41,000. Another organic grower was fined 1 euro after he agreed to use pesticides.
France has pledged, under the 2007 Grenelle law on the environment, to reduce its pesticide consumption by 50 percent by 2018. To help meet this goal, Stéphane Le Foll, the minister of agriculture, announced on Nov. 13 a new sustainable agriculture bill that is scheduled to be submitted to the French Assembly in January for debate. Considering organic producers who refuse pre-emptive use of pesticides as criminals will not help France’s transition to sustainable agricultural practices. The law requiring such use in Burgundy is not only bad policy, it is terrible publicity for French wine. The law should be changed, and the French Assembly should pass the new bill on sustainable agriculture this month.”
According to the UK journal The Telegraph, almost exactly 2 years ago, Yannick Chenet, 43, died of leukemia and became the 1st of dozens of French farmers to have their illnesses officially linked to their profession and the pesticides they use. Paul Francois, 47, inadvertently breathed noxious fumes from his spraying machine and immediately fell into a coma. Other farmers are suffering several types of cancers, kidney failures, nervous system problems, and Parkinson’s disease.
While every wine region in the world uses pesticides of one form or another, it will be interesting to hear how the French Assembly’s debate over the sustainable agriculture bill goes this month.